Edmonton Journal

Tuesday, July 13, 1999

Domestic violence: equality between the sexes

By Lorne Gunter
The Edmonton Journal

Radical feminists should be happy with the lead story in Saturday's National Post: "Women emerge as aggressors in Alberta survey."

For the past two decades, the most virulent feminists have been demanding that women be reengineered to be as aggressive as men, and men to be as caring-and-sharing as women.

So when the Post reported previously suppressed data from a key study on domestic violence, and that suppressed evidence revealed women start as many or more fights as their male partners and commit as much abuse, the feminists should have declared victory. One of their pretended goals had been achieved.

Of course, they will not be happy. They never wanted it known that women can be just as loutish as men.

One of the foundational myths of radical feminism is that all domestic violence is caused by men. Even that little bit men suffer, according to feminists, consists merely of women defending themselves and their children against the abusive sex. With this misconception firmly planted in the minds of opinion- and decision-makers, it has been possible to maintain the one-way flow of cash to women's organizations, and cow men into accepting guilt and legislating accordingly.

The Post had the audacity to puncture that myth. Researchers who have challenged this myth before have risked professional discrediting and even death threats. Nonetheless, it is a myth.

It's not as though the Alberta study referred to was the first to conclude men and women are equally responsible for the violence in their relationships. The study, originally published in 1989, and resurrected now by researchers eager to correct the biased presentation of a decade ago, wasn't even the first to be, shall we say, "modified" to suits the public policy aims of feminists inside and outside government, and in the battered women industry.

In her 1997 book, When She Was Bad: Women and the Myth of Innocence, writer Patricia Pearson tells of a 1993 study by Carleton University sociologist Walter DeKeseredy and paid for by the federal government. DeKeseredy found what many other researchers had found when looking at violence in premarital romances: girlfriends assault their boyfriends as often as the other way around, and cause nearly as many injuries. But DeKeseredy did not release his statistics on assaults committed by women, only those on assaults committed by men, because, as he told Pearson, the truth (not his word) would have created a backlash against the women's movement and been used to keep battered wives out of shelters.

Nor was DeKeseredy the first to find this equality between the sexes. In 1980, University of New Hampshire scholars Murray Straus, Richard Gelles and Suzanne Steinmetz surveyed over 2,000 American couples and found violence is an equal opportunity crime, that women initiated the violence as often as not and not for self-defensive purposes. University of Manitoba sociologist Reena Sommer has uncovered similar statistics in Canada.

In Britain, Canada and the United States, study after study of domestic violence has reached the same conclusion. About 40 per cent of men and an equal percentage of women will abuse their spouses at some point in their relationship. About 10 per cent of each will do it frequently.

Women are more than four times as likely to use a weapon. But in the tiny percentage of assaults that result in serious injury, men are somewhere between three and six times as likely as women to inflict real harm.

This latter finding is not to be dismissed or scoffed at. It should, however, be placed in perspective. To view the feminist-inspired, tax-funded public affairs announcements against spousal abuse, with their puffy-faced, black-eyed female victims, one would get the impression that all assaults of women by men lead to serious injury. It is never right to slap one's spouse, or shove her or throw an ashtray at him. Yet it is important to consider that only three per cent of men and one per cent of women do serious damage to their partners (defined as an injury requiring emergency medial treatment), ever.

These violent spouses and partners are not to be ignored. But neither should we presume they are one of one sex nor should their actions be permitted to become the stereotype for how officialdom views one-half of the population: men.

Of course, they have. Police officers and judges now, thanks to the success of feminists in poisoning the debate, often must undergo gender sensitivity training, which consists mostly of propaganda about how women never lie about such things and men cannot be trusted. There is public funding to over 400 women's shelters in Canada, none for even one men's shelter.

When the Alberta study first came out, its one-sided conclusions were instrumental in convincing Parliament to fund the equally one-sided National Panel on Violence Against Women, which concluded 98 per cent of women are victimized and it was all men's fault. Now that the truth is known about the misuse of the original study, will another national panel be appointed to correct the hideous bias that is the foundation for our national policy on domestic violence? Don't count on it.